Palin rides the 'birther' bandwagon
Why bother tackling America's real problems when you can stoke paranoid delusions over Obama's birth certificate?
o Jennifer Abel
o guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 8 December 2009 13.00 GMT
Sarah Palin couldn't leave well enough alone, could she? Just when I started hoping Orly Taitz and her factually challenged followers were fading from public memory, the Mooseburger Barbie added her lumbering mass to the "birther" bandwagon momentum. On the Rusty Humphries show last week, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate said of the quasi-controversy surrounding Obama's birth certificate: "I think the public rightly is still making it an issue … I think it's a fair question just like I think past associations and past voting records."
Such idiocy isn't unique to Palin or even the right wing; it's a symptom of a more serious illness infecting America's body politic. Too many people on both ends of the political spectrum ignore actual issues to focus on conspiratorial jackassery. Bush and Cheney spent eight years shredding the constitution, yet their main detractors ignored this to weave a vast conspiracy wherein Osama bin Laden brought down the World Trade Centre on Bush's orders so the latter could invade Iraq after stupidly planting fake evidence implicating not Iraqis but Saudi Arabians.
Then Obama ran for president on promises to repair Bush's constitutional damage, got elected, and continued his predecessor's worst offences while piling on more of his own. So what's his opposition doing? Blathering over birth certificates and his middle name: Barack HUSSEIN Obama.
Why do my compatriots ignore our country's real problems to fight vapours instead? It's not just the presidential conspiracies: there's the obsession with stopping gay marriage, off-and-on flag-burning panic, the goodness-graciousing over drugs, porn and teen sexuality, and the potentially deadly anti-vaccine hysteria.
Howard Bloom answered my question in 1995 when he wrote The Lucifer Principle, a book which discusses – for lack of a better phrase – the evolutionary origins of evil. One section shows examples of how animals, people and entire countries need to feel in control of things, yet go about it the wrong way; when faced with a problem you can't immediately solve, it's easier, and more gratifying in the short term, to kick a scapegoat instead.
Ordinary people do it: a man has a bad day at work but can't lash out at his boss, so he goes home and yells at his kids. The ancient Romans did it: when barbarians threatened the borders, they figured their main problem was a vestal virgin who offended the gods by having sex, and ignored the barbarians to prosecute naughty vestals. Victorian England did it: in the 1890s when the German chemical-industrial revolution threatened British economic supremacy, they blamed degenerate playwrights and novelists, gave Oscar Wilde a show trial and ignored the Empire's real problems to throw his homosexual self in gaol.
But yelling at your kids won't fix problems with your boss. The deaths of the non-virgin vestals didn't save Rome, and the sun set on the British Empire despite Wilde's ruination.
What does this mean for America? We've always had political conspiracy theories, but after 9/11 they moved from the fringe to the mainstream. In the last millennium, you never saw major-party VP candidates suggest the sitting president address questions such as "Who really killed JFK?" or "How many space aliens have we imprisoned at Area 51?"
Yet those theories have more going for them than Birtherism ever did. Kennedy really was assassinated, and his murderer gunned down before anyone could ask questions. Even the men-in-black/UFO spotters found partial vindication in our military's admission that yes, they did test high-tech designs at Area 51. What evidence do Birthers have? Only the meltdown ravings of a dentist who'll believe any bad forgery a bored prankster bothers sending her.
That's what Sarah Palin thinks Americans ought to worry about – and her fans have taken her at face value even as she sought to pulll back from her comments. Yet Palin represents the only major-party alternative offered to Americans fed up with Obama's catastrophic mismanagement.
Jesus wept, and so did I.Source